Strengthening Agricultural Libraries in India

Dr. Akhouri Vaishampayan, Professor, Banaras Hindu University

Introduction
Access to latest information/updates on agriculture in an era of Information Technology is vital for the growth of the agricultural community. Agriculture is often seen as the spinal cord of a rural economy, contributing a major share towards the national GDP. Having said that, in order to set up a library system with a strong base in agricultural knowledge, a powerful network of both print and online resources is essential. Although every agricultural university, college and research institute in India has their own libraries acting as knowledge hubs, there are issues that hinder these libraries from realizing their full potential. My perceptions related to failure of accessibility and lack of concerted efforts (two of the issues that are relevant here) in documenting farmers’ experiences are expressed below.

Failure of Accessibility
A library often remains under-utilized owing to factors which can be improved upon with little or no extra expenditure. Mostly the under-utilization of libraries is caused by the user’s incapability to find the bibliographical item due to lack of awareness on locating the material and misplacing materials by users.

For the benefit of the end user, a new course on ‘Library & Information Services’ has now been made compulsory for all MSc (Ag.) and PhD students belonging to any discipline of Agriculture in India in order to (i) equip the users with skills to trace information from libraries efficiently (ii) apprise them on information and knowledge resources (iii) carry out literature survey for their dissertation (iv) formulate information search strategies and (v) use modern tools of information search (Internet, OPAC, search engines, etc.)

Documentation of Farmers’ Experiences – the Duty of Agricultural Scientists
Educating the farmers is a challenging responsibility of the agricultural scientist. In fact in variation with the traditional libraries, the Agricultural Information Transfer System consists of a two-way flow of information. In the general one-way flow, it comprises

  • generation of information by the scientists & technical staff
  • documentation of information in the form of books & journals
  • use of newer information in human resource generation
  • extension of theoretical & practical information to the grass-root level end users (farmers)
  • utilization of information for enhanced food-fiber-feed production.

But in the two-way flow we have to listen to the farmers’ experiences as well that are sometimes ingenious. Despite their bright innovative field-level experiences, most of these farmers cannot document their experiences in the form it can be perceived in the library, while we do often arrange earnest ‘farmer-scientist participatory interactions’. The scientific community in India is thus keen to scientifically test farmers’ verdict and document/publish them in a readable manner. In small groups, our faculty is periodically interacting with world experts on the subject as to how could we comprehensively make best use of the art of documenting under the two-way flow of information, for improving agricultural libraries.

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